A Sucker for Succulents

I am a sucker for succulents. From their color combos, textures, and awesome survival skills, to their ease of care and more readily availability, these little domes and nests of water retaining plants are dynamos of the plant world. Here in the Deep South, we can use members of this plant family year round in the garden and inside for pizzazz! Aloes, some cacti, jades, hen and chicks, some sedums, and agaves are all succulent plants and must haves for the garden and home décor.

By definition, succulent plants store and retain water in their leaves, stems, and roots. Some are covered in pubescence, fuzz, and even spines – all of which are devices and methods on retaining water. Waxy and juicy looking, the leaves are chocked full of water and other natural chemistry phenomena to help with water conservation. Native to subtropics, steppes, salt flats, sea coasts, and deserts, the wide range of these plants’ habitat is fascinating. With the advent of modern transportation, heating, air conditioning, and other modern technologies, even the home gardener can enjoy growing these magnificent little (and some very large) species of flora.

Now as for my home and garden, I love using jades, agaves, and aloes in containers in the garden as tropical and lush accents…bringing them in or covering them if it gets too cold. This must be a hereditary thing, since both of my great-grandmothers adorned their porches with succulents, and my great-great-grandmother Bates (Mimi’s Big Mama) had “two of the largest jade plants in urns on her front steps” according to Mimi. Sounds divine for an entrance!

Sedums, such as ‘Autumn Joy,’ even make fantastic cut flowers and add gorgeous texture in the perennial beds with their foliage and flowers. Hen and chicks are a common type of succulent plant seen in many older gardens around the South, perennially popping up in cracks and crevices faithfully for years.

The “Big Box” retailers have even hitched onto the succulent band wagon, offering little compositions already planted and individual plants alike…much to my delight! I have used succulents as wreaths, tablescapes, centerpieces, and decorative accents for many clients and selfishly for years! My big lavender platter mounded with lavender hued, gray tone, acidic greens, and ghostly silvers is just eye catching and aesthetically pleasing and I savor any chance I can have a mound of these little jewels gracing my tabletop or garden.

Back in second grade, we had to make terrariums for a science project…I was already a “pro” at terrariums by this point in life, and simply relished in that assignment. Some things never change! I still love making terrariums and use them in the décor for friends, family, and clients alike for events and everyday enjoyment. Part of the fun of terrariums is somewhat akin to a trifle for dessert – yummy layers of complementing textures for our indulgence!

I found some filler stones in shades of salmon, gray, cream, jade green, and burnt sienna (the 64 count Crayola box was and is a favorite color name source) and layered them as the foundation for my terrarium. A thick glass planter/vase suited my fancy for the terrarium proper and allows me to see the layers of moss, stones, and succulents as I would cake, cream, and fruit in a trifle dish…the latter probably tasting better though!

Mounding these shallow rooted plants in a good quality potting soil is parallel to arranging flowers. Arrange concentrically and fill in any gaps with more flowers or, in this case, smaller plants or mood moss. I could verse for eons on moss, but I’ll spare you until another post. Moss does, however, cover a multitude of sins, so a dab or two here and there fills in any gaps or pockets the succulents didn’t cover. Plus, it is a gorgeous layer in your horticultural trifle!

Other fun containers to try with succulents are galvanized buckets, shell encrusted pots, or shells themselves! I have a couple ‘Burrito’ sedums in my sunroom that have been trooping along for a couple years…now that’s an interior plant of choice in my book! Explore your options with the wide array that succulent plants can offer your home and garden. Simply researching them is quite entertaining and informing as well. Gracing your garden and décor with succulent succulents is the way to go! Just don’t overwater…allow them to dry out between watering (which should be light) and plenty of light indoors is a recipe for success with these vibrant specimens. I’m sure you’ll be sucker for succulents before too long!